Substantive Theory of Technology

According to Andrew Feenberg, a substantive theory of technology assumes that a technology's design will fundamentally change the ways in which an organization (or a culture) operates. Neil Postman and Marshall McLuhan take a substantive approach to television, for example, by asserting that the design of the medium changes that way American culture operates. (See Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death,  for example.)

A substantive theory places the emphasis on technology design, rather than on users; moreover, this places moral sanction on design. We would fault the technology rather than the users.

A substantive approach in writing center literature might suggest that the design of a particular piece of technology fundamentally changes the nature of student/tutor interaction. It might consider how the design of a particular technology, such as MOOs or the World Wide Web, changes writing center practice.

Feenberg's critical theory says . . .

Stuart Blythe
Purdue University